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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 20

The finest statue of this divinity was that by Polycletus at Argos.

Her attributes are the diadem, veil, sceptre, and peacock.

The first day of every month a ewe-lamb and sow were sacrificed to Hera. The hawk, goose, and more particularly the peacock[17] were sacred to her. Flocks of these beautiful birds generally surround her throne and draw her chariot, Iris, the Rainbow, being seated behind her.

Her favourite flowers were the dittany, poppy, and lily.

JUNO.

Juno, the Roman divinity supposed to be identical with the Greek Hera, differed from her in the most salient points, for whereas Hera invariably appears as the haughty, unbending queen of heaven, Juno, on the other hand, is revered and beloved as the type of a matron and housewife. She was worshipped in Rome under various titles, most of which point to her vocation as the protectress of married women. Juno was believed to watch over and guard the life of every woman from her birth to her death. The principal temples dedicated to her were in Rome, one being erected on the Aventine, and the other on the Capitoline Hill. She had also a temple on the Arx, in which she was worshipped as Juno Moneta, or the [43]warning goddess. Adjacent to this shrine was the public mint.[18] On the 1st of March a grand annual festival, called the Matronalia, was celebrated in her honour by all the married women of Rome, and this religious institution was accompanied with much solemnity.[19]

PALLAS-ATHENE (Minerva).

Pallas-Athene, goddess of Wisdom and Armed Resistance, was a purely Greek divinity; that is to say, no other nation possessed a corresponding conception. She was supposed, as already related, to have issued from the head of Zeus himself, clad in armour from head to foot. The miraculous advent of this maiden goddess is beautifully described by Homer in one of his hymns: snow-capped Olympus shook to its foundation; the glad earth re-echoed her martial shout; the billowy sea became agitated; and Helios, the sun-god, arrested his fiery steeds in their headlong course to welcome this wonderful emanation from the godhead. Athene was at once admitted into the assembly of the gods, and henceforth took her place as the most faithful and sagacious of all her father's counsellors. This brave, dauntless maiden, so exactly the essence of all that is noble in the character of "the father of gods and men," remained throughout chaste in word and deed, and kind at heart, without exhibiting any of those failings which somewhat mar the nobler features in the character of Zeus. This direct emanation from his own self, justly his favourite child, his better and purer counterpart, received from him several important prerogatives. She was permitted to hurl the thunderbolts, to prolong the life of man, and to bestow the gift of prophecy; in fact Athene was the only divinity whose authority was equal to that of Zeus himself, and when he had ceased to visit the earth in person [44]she was empowered by him to act as his deputy. It was her especial duty to protect the state and all peaceful associations of mankind, which she possessed the power of defending when occasion required. She encouraged the maintenance of law and order, and defended the right on all occasions, for which reason, in the Trojan war she espouses the cause of the Greeks and exerts all her influence on their behalf. The Areopagus, a court of justice where religious causes and murders were tried, was believed to have been instituted by her, and when both sides happened to have an equal number of votes she gave the casting-vote in favour of the accused. She was the patroness of learning, science, and art, more particularly where these contributed directly towards the welfare of nations. She presided over all inventions connected with agriculture, invented the plough, and taught mankind how to use oxen for farming purposes. She also instructed mankind in the use of numbers, trumpets, chariots, &c., and presided over the building of the Argo,[20] thereby encouraging the useful art of navigation. She also taught the Greeks how to build the wooden horse by means of which the destruction of Troy was effected.


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